Professional Ethics and Cynicism in Dutch Dental Students

Wolter G. Brands*, M. Erwald, Jos Welie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Some 40 years ago, Morris and Sherlock concluded that dental students are very cynical about their future profession, and indeed become more cynical as they progress through dental school. Later studies continued to report cynicism among dental students, but some studies did not confirm the reported increase. However, any degree of cynicism among matriculating students and even more so among graduating students should be of grave concern to dental educators.

Method: This study used a survey modeled after the instrument used by Morris and Sherlock. First and fifth year students at one of the dental schools in The Netherlands were presented with 10 vignettes and asked to indicate how they themselves would respond, how practising dentists would respond and how any dentist should respond.

Results: We did not find a rise in cynicism. However, we did find that both freshmen and graduating dental students in The Netherlands are rather cynical, as a group, about the ethics of their future profession. Even students who believe that the professional norms themselves are sound (as evidenced by their own willingness to abide by those norms) tend to believe that many practising dentists regularly violate those norms.

Conclusions: As was already reported some 40 years ago, dental students appear to harbour a widespread and persistent cynicism about the ethics of their future profession. The professionalism courses that are emerging in many dental schools around the world should take note of this challenging statistic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-209
JournalEuropean Journal of Dental Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

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